The Power of Social Media

People often see life through their own lens.

Some people even go through life believing that most people in the world think the same way that they do and want to live the same way that they do. Furthermore, they believe that there is something wrong with those people who disagree with their opinions.

However, the reality is that this couldn’t be more further from the truth. Everyone has a slightly different perspective on the way that life should be lived.

The Internet and all the social networking sites out there give people the opportunity to see the world through other people’s eyes, or at least get some insights into how others see the world. However, I’d speculate that many people don’t take advantage of the resources that are available to them because they are either short on time, lack the interest, or don’t want to shake up their world and try to imagine that someone else has a completely different perspective on life. Or even worse, they are afraid that they might find out that the way that the other person thinks might actually be more logical.

‘Kony 2012’

By now, you have probably heard about the 30-minute video produced by the San Diego-based charity, Invisible Children, that was created to raise awareness about the African guerrilla leader who is known for kidnapping children and forcing the boys to fight in his army and the girls to become sex slaves.

As the sign in the photo points out, most people should agree that Joseph Kony is an evil person who should be stopped. However, not everyone agrees that posting the video on YouTube was a good idea. In fact, some critics have said that the buzz that the video has created could actually make it more difficult to catch Kony.

The criticisms that this video received actually inspired this blog post.

Keep in mind, I’m not an expert on the best ways to capture guerrilla leaders in Africa, but my gut feeling is that the video is a good thing. If for no other reason, it forces people to think about issues that have an effect on people on the other side of the world.

What also intrigued me (and many other like-minded people) is the way that the message spread.

By leveraging social networking sites, the charity was able to bypass the traditional media and get the story out to millions of people and eventually make it so important that it has been covered by the traditional media, as well.

What This Means for Business

By using social media, Invisible Children was able to spread the word about a ruthless guerrilla leader who needs to be captured, and in the process was able to raise money to fund their charitable work.

However, the issue doesn’t need to be as tragic as this to get people mobilized to action. And, the thing is, given the nature of social media, it can be a consumer who starts a movement that can help or hinder your business.

Just look at how Kristen Christian, an art gallery owner in Los Angeles, California, used social media to encourage thousands of people to switch from banks to credit unions by organizing an event that she called “Bank Transfer Day” to protest, among other things, the $5 a month debit card fees that were being charged by Bank of America.

The event was so successful that according to the “Credit Union Directors Newsletter” published by the Credit Union National Association in December of 2011, “Since Bank of America announced its debit card fees in late September until Bank Transfer Day on Nov. 5, nearly 700,000 consumers opened new accounts at credit unions—40,000 on Nov. 5 alone. To compare, credit unions added about 650,000 members throughout all of 2010.” (Note: For full disclosure, I must point out that I am a former employee of the Credit Union National Association.)

Final Thoughts

Social media has changed the way that we communicate.

It has given people who would have had a hard time getting their message out via the traditional media outlets the voice to try to change in the world.

It is important to acknowledge that we don’t all speak in a unified voice. That is, as humans we all have our own opinions on how to solve problems. Furthermore, people often disagree about whether there is a problem in the first place.

From a business perspective, this creates a unique challenge. Not only have businesses lost control of the message, but anything that a business says or does has the possibility to be a huge win or a huge setback, depending on the way that it is perceived by the public—particularly those people who are very vocal on the Internet.

Therefore, it becomes even more important to try to think through all of your business decisions in an effort to predict how your customers and potential customers might react. It is also important to understand that people from different backgrounds might have different reactions to your message.

And now, with the power of social media, they have the ability to let everyone know about it.

Photo credit: Robert Raines on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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